Keynote address by the Minister for Public Service and Administration Mr Masenyani Richard Baloyi at the annual conference of the Association of Southern African Schools and Departments of Public Administration and Management (ASSADPAM) in Cape Town
5 Sep 2011
Vice Chancellor, Prof Vuyisa Tanga,
Deputy Vice Chancellor, Prof AP Staak,
The Executive Committee of ASSADPAM,
The Department of Public Management,
Ladies and gentlemen,
All protocol observed
I would like to begin by thanking the Deputy Vice Chancellor for extending an invitation to me to attend this Conference. I would also like to commend the Executive Committee of Association of Southern African Schools and Departments of Public Administration and Management (ASSADPAM) and the Department of Public Management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology for hosting this important event.
I must state upfront that I have not come here as an expert, with answers to each and every question that you may raise. On the contrary, I have many questions that I would like to throw to you and, should you permit, I will expect answers.
The theme for this conference, "Public Management at a crossroad in a changing world", is well placed in the context of the highly globalising society. Globalisation is said to be the context of development in the 21st century. Some have referred to its fast pace as a revolution'. Others call it a geo-political earthquake'.
The current pace of globalisation is manifest in the rapid integration of economies throughout the world through trade, financial flows, exchange of information and technology as well as the unrestricted migration of critical and highly marketable and sought after human capital across regional and continental borders. This process is a result of the rapid expansion, diversification and deepening of trade and financial links among regions of the world.
Some have argued that the process has opened greater access to world markets and allowed countries to exploit their comparative advantages while opening their economies to the benefits of increased international competition. Others on the hand argue that globalisation is an economic orthodoxy that is failing the masses of the people across the globe.
Whichever view one subscribes to, the reality is that globalisation has left no corner of the globe untouched. There is now a new global and borderless economy that is characterised by the internationalisation of production as the key mechanism of economic integration.
Ladies and gentlemen,
As the scope of the world economy expands and countries face pressures to adopt policies that enhance their global competitiveness, so too have we observed indicators of the citizens' disaffection provoked by their increasing expectations and demands for better quality services. Whichever direction we face - from Tunisia to Egypt and Syria, the message is clear; people expect more and more of their leaders and their governments in delivering quality basic services.
Our country has been part of the continental efforts that respond to people's expectations for better quality basic services from government. During the 16th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union earlier in the year, the continent adopted the African Charter on Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration.
This was a culmination of the work done over many years by like minded African countries, including South Africa and Algeria. The Assembly of the Union said it understood: "the importance of the African Charter on the Values and Principles of Public Service and Administration in the consolidation of commitments collectively taken by Member States to improve public service delivery, combat corruption, protect the rights of citizens as users of public service as well as promote good governance and sustainable development on the Continent."
Of significance here is that the African Charter incorporates our own eight Batho Pele principles as these are viewed as being central to the development of public servants across the continent as the vehicles through which the delivery of services to the people are driven.
As a country, we are proud of this major achievement by the continent and its peoples. We are also delighted that the African Charter places the role of government at the centre of development. This emphasis echoes the views of many, especially in developing countries, that the recent global economic and financial crisis has taught us instructive lessons about the need for capable developmental states if the ideal of a people centred development is to be realised; and the centrality of public administration in this development has become very critical.
The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP's) Public Administration Reform (PAR) Practice document provides that support to modernising state institutions is linked to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in many ways.
Firstly, if the efficiency of the public administration is increased, more resources in poor countries are channeled towards the pursuit of the MDGs.
Secondly, fewer scarce resources in poor countries will be misdirected away from achieving the MDGs when transparency is increased and when corruption is eradicated.
Thirdly, a public administration that responds to the needs of citizens, especially women, vulnerable groups and the marginalised, is critical to ensuring the sustainability of the achievements within the framework of the MDGs.
Fourthly, increasing the accountability of state institutions is an essential feature of governments' strategies to close the democratic deficit, which is key to achieving the MDGs.
The theme for this conference challenges both the academic fraternity and the public service to reflect on the efficacy and or deficiencies in how our public service interventions are strengthening or failing to strengthen our democratic systems.
Given the diverse social and economical challenges that beset us, and which require a response from leaders both in academia and government, let us use the opportunity provided by this conference to ask ourselves some pivotal questions:
What is our vision for a future public administration?
How can we ensure that our teaching practices are in sync with the technological global community we operate in?
What doors should we be trying to open in rethinking our practice?
How can we build a new understanding of public administration for a democratic, developmental state?
In answering these questions, we must look to erstwhile leaders on our continent for advice and guidance, such as the former President of the United Republic of Tanzania, Benjamin Mkapa, who earlier this year said owning the process of post independence transformation is very important. He stated that, very often in Africa we get lectured on what systems to adopt with absolutely no regard for our countries' capacity to deliver through those systems.
So, as we all work together in partnership, as government and academia, we must, as much as possible, seek the so called home grown' solutions that are implementable and that have the potential to help us address the pressing developmental needs facing the majority of our people.
As you know so well, not long ago our government adopted the New Growth Path, which emphasises as its central pillar, the growing of an economy that creates jobs. Addressing my staff following the adoption I said, "the New Growth Path has been adopted and is now ready for implementation.
This growth path will seek to address the challenge of unemployment, amongst others, but will also present us as the public service with unique opportunities. These opportunities will compel us to examine the way we work, the way we are structured, our systems and procedures and also the calibre of our public servants."
The 8 January 2011 statement of the African National Congress (ANC), the State of the Nation Address delivered by the President of our Republic and the ANC and Cabinet Makgotla have unanimously emphasised the need to work together to create jobs.
Contained in the call to create jobs are many deliverables, which require concerted efforts across different sectors of our society. The question I would like to pose to academia is: "What contribution are you going to make in the national efforts to make the public service a vehicle for development, and in particular in gearing the public service to create jobs?"
I raised a similar question when I met academics two weeks ago to brief them about the campaign that my Ministry is driving under the theme: "My Public Servant, My Future." I approached academics because I firmly believed that they are an important stakeholder within the broader social partnership in our efforts to transform our public service to make it a key enabler to unlock our country's potential to respond to the challenges of a developmental state.
As government we value the enormous expertise that resides within academia and we believe we should ensure that we harness this expertise for the strengthening of our public service and the consequent implementation of our national development agenda.
As His Excellency Benjamin Mkapa, to whom I referred earlier, put it, there can never be development when there is what he called, poverty of knowledge'. As he said, such poverty "diminishes our freedom. It incapacitates our struggle to improve our material and social welfare."
When we developed the White Paper on the Transformation of the Public Service in 1995, we envisioned training and education as critical to "develop the professional capacities of public servants and to promote institutional change".
The 1997 White Paper on Public Service Training and Education cited the need for on-going staff development and "lifelong learning." It recognised that learning does not "culminate" at any point but must be considered a permanent process informed by the institutional memory, life's experiences and at times even the trial and error lessons learned in the mastery of knowledge and skills acquired in the process.
As government we have been implementing a number of other interventions aimed at ensuring that public servants undergo regular training. Yet as I speak here today we continue to confront two interrelated challenges with regard to training.
One challenge is that we are as yet to come to a point where we can confidently say that training has yielded the desired impact with regard to the skilling of public servants. The other challenge is that there is no clear causal link between training and improved service delivery or put otherwise, the gap between theory and practice.
Where are we going wrong? Is it that the training that is being offered at institutions of higher learning and other similar institutions is not relevant to the task of modernising and improving our public service? Or is it that public servants or prospective public servants are incapable of being adequately trained or re oriented to the ethos of the new public service cadre?
These questions may sound shallow, but they are an expression of the extent to which the issue of training has been taken for granted for far too long. I am hoping that today all of us, meeting here, will come up with practical solutions that can ultimately have a direct and positive impact on our public service.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am sure many of you are also aware of the concerns expressed by government with regard to the quality and relevance of teaching and research in public administration.
Recent figures from the Department of Higher Education and Training show growing public administration enrolments trends, but are the entrants being adequately prepared for service within government?
Indeed as Adedeji Adebayo once asked: "What sort of undergraduate education programme should a would be professional administrator have? Should it continue to be in any discipline or should there be some attempt at identifying the relevant ones?"
These questions are appropriate in the context of situating the public service teaching platform within the broader agenda of Government and making sure that it is action oriented and experiential in character.
The 2005 Report of the Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management (CAPAM) recounted that:
- The breadth of competencies required in the public sector is different from that required in the private sector
- Specifically, public servants require more than technical skills; they require a broad spectrum of knowledge, skills and abilities, plus firm grounding in the public sector values and ethics
- The kind of learning that applies to public servants is different from youth learning. Adult learning builds upon lifetime experiences. Learning therefore should be tailored to reflect the learner's unique realities, needs and objectives.
I will leave this conference more fulfilled if I have in my pocket practical answers to the questions I have posed today.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Connected to the issue of training is that of developing and promoting professionalism within the public service, as Chapter 10 of the Constitution and subsequent legislative framework exhorts us to.
The major challenge, as pointed out by Jerome Udoji of Nigeria, is that for far too long, public administration has not been regarded as a profession, but more of an art, which any average intelligent person can easily acquire on the job. Is that perhaps not the source of the problem?
Here I am reminded of Woodrow Wilson, the erstwhile President of the United States who is reported to have said, "there should be a science of administration, which should seek to straighten the paths of government, to make it business like, to strengthen and purify its organisation and to cover its duties with dutifulness."
It is clear that what Wilson was calling for were efforts to make public administration a discipline that must produce specialists who are able to plan, execute and manage complex processes of public service towards meeting developmental objectives. According to Teresa Amabile, professionalism is to a large degree promoted by specialisation, which in turn induces innovation and creativity. She says, creativity is a function of three components; expertise, creative thinking skills, and innovation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
There is no doubt that the quality of public services is to a large extent a major determinant of how citizens perceive government. Therefore, as government is acutely aware, service delivery is not a privilege but a legitimate right for every citizen. We are constantly preoccupied by the questions of how to make public administration more effective.
In reflecting on this issue and many others that I have already raised, I am in a sense asking this conference to think through and deliberate on some practical steps that will help our public service to progress beyond its current character and ethos to one that is efficient, effective and development oriented in the context of an empowered, fair and inclusive citizenship.
But I hasten to add that I am in no way suggesting that these deliberations should end with the conference. We have engaged thoroughly on the Revolving Door' or productive partnership concept as I would prefer to refer to it, at our various meetings with academia, and continue to use the policy to interact with each other through our stakeholder office.
The productive partnership concept establishes a reciprocal relationship among the public service, universities and other relevant institutions and partners, including the private sector. It is our intention to bring together all the stakeholders and to focus their attention on the precise needs of the public service.
My Public Servant, My Future campaign aims at exactly mobilising society and building consensus and unanimity of purpose around the single vision of an imaginative, diligent and effective public servant. We talk of a public servant whose only goal is to serve the public. All of us must speak with one voice on how best we then develop such a public servant. What more needs to be done, in addition to the policies and regulations that we introduced and the training that we have been rolling out?
At the beginning I said I cannot pretend to have answers to every question we may be having regarding the public service. Indeed I have asked more questions than I have provided answers. I now look up to you, our social partners within academia, to assist us in government, to assist all South Africans, with innovative thinking on how best to build and sustain developmental public administration that supports the country's developmental agenda.
I wish you all the best for your deliberations and constructive discourse during this conference, and again extend my appreciation to the organisers for inviting me to join you here this evening.
Issued by: Department of Public Service and Administration
5 Sep 2011
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